Agent Issues Society wins latest ruling in California lawsuit September 20, 2002 Share 1 -- By Laura Del Rosso SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- ASTA has won another ruling from the California Superior Court here in its fight against the Consumer Action League, which this spring sued more than 200 travel agencies because, the league claimed, they failed to post their California Seller of Travel registration numbers on their Web sites.The court dismissed the Consumer Action League's request for a court order requiring the agents named in the suit to display their registration numbers."The fact is, these agents and agencies are already in compliance with the California rule," said ASTA president Richard Copland. "There was no need for further court action to direct them to do something they had already done."ASTA's Litigation Center hired a San Francisco law firm to represent about 70 travel agencies named in the suit.In July, the court dismissed the league's demand for monetary damages.ASTA said that one issue in the case remains: legal fees, which Consumer Action League attorney Brian Kindsvater has claimed are due him for bringing the case.Kindsvater has invoked "private attorney general," a privilege available in California (see accompanying story below) to those who seek to enforce a law that they claim the attorney general has not enforced.San Francisco attorney Alexander Anolik, who is representing 24 agencies that have been sued by Kindsvater, said he has been working closely with ASTA's California-based legal counsel to thwart Kindsvater's efforts to collect."ASTA and I are hacking away at Kindsvater on different levels to get at the same goal, which is to have the court deny him any attorney's fees," he said.Anolik, meanwhile, said he has learned from insurance companies that offer travel agencies errors- and-omissions insurance that attorney's fees and legal filing costs in relation to the Consumer Action League suit may be covered by their policies.Anolik suggests that affected agencies check with their insurance companies.Biz groups take aim at oddity in Calif. lawSACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Travel agents in California are not the only business owners who have been slapped with lawsuits by an attorney claiming they have violated a little-known provision of a state law.Such lawsuits are "mushrooming," according to the Civil Justice Association of California, a pro-business group based here that has asked state Attorney General Bill Lockyer to investigate this practice, which is allowed under the state's unfair competition law.Under Business and Professions Code 17200, an individual can act as a "private attorney general" and sue businesses for unfair practices.John Sullivan, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, said he had not heard of Kindsvater's suit against the agencies, but the legal action appears to fit a pattern of similar actions under the business and professions code.The association cites several examples of such lawsuits, including one against 140 ethnic grocery stores in the Central Valley that were targeted by a law firm accusing the owners of renting videos pirated in India.In that case, the law firm offered to drop the action if the store owners settled for $2,000.In another case, auto dealers in California were sued by a law firm claiming that technical leasing and loan terms were omitted from newspaper ads. Sullivan said such suits are usually settled out of court.Sullivan said California's law is unique. "Most states require either that there be a real injured individual or that there's been an attempt by a state agency to act on the alleged unfair business practices," he said.Sullivan said his group hopes an investigation by the attorney general will eventually lead to a change in the law. -- L.D.R.